In what some consider a long-awaited move, Microsoft today announced it has signed an agreement to acquire mobile app dev toolmaker Xamarin.
Xamarin provides a popular platform that enables developers to build mobile applications using C# and deliver native mobile app experiences on iOS, Android and Windows devices. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Microsoft has had a long relationship with Xamarin—integrating with the Xamarin tools, including Xamarin co-founder and CTO Miguel de Icaza in open-source strategy committees and even openly wooing de Icaza to join the software giant even before the founding of Xamarin more than four years ago. The companies jointly built Xamarin integration into Visual Studio, Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite.
“Xamarin’s approach enables developers to take advantage of the productivity and power of .NET to build mobile apps, and to use C# to write to the full set of native APIs and mobile capabilities provided by each device platform,” said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of the Cloud and Enterprise Group at Microsoft, in a blog post. “This enables developers to easily share common app code across their iOS, Android and Windows apps while still delivering fully native experiences for each of the platforms. Xamarin’s unique solution has fueled amazing growth for more than four years.”
Forrester Vice President and Principal Analyst Jeffrey Hammond said the move to acquire Xamarin amplifies Microsoft’s already comprehensive mobile development strategy.
“Bottom line: It’s about time,” Hammond told eWEEK. “This move makes Microsoft a must-consider option throughout the stack when it comes to mobile development. We see strong client interest in Xamarin’s approach, as enterprise mobile devs want native performance and look-and feel, but they hate maintaining two separate code bases for Android and iOS.”
“Xamarin’s biggest sales objection is now removed,” added Michael Facemire, Hammond’s colleague and principal analyst at Forrester. “In our (frequent) conversations with clients about Xamarin, a recurring question pops up about whether they should trust this highly strategic technology decision to a small vendor. In the past six months, we’ve seen mainstream buyers become less concerned about this objection, as Xamarin has stood up enterprise mobile app case studies—but today’s acquisition removes that concern entirely.”
Xamarin has more than 15,000 customers in 120 countries, including more than 100 Fortune 500 companies—and more than 1.3 million unique developers have taken advantage of its offering, Guthrie said.
“Top enterprises such as Alaska Airlines, Coca-Cola Bottling, Thermo Fisher, Honeywell and JetBlue use Xamarin, as do gaming companies like SuperGiant Games and Gummy Drop,” he noted. “Through Xamarin Test Cloud, all types of mobile developers—C#, Objective-C, Java and hybrid app builders—can also test and improve the quality of apps using thousands of cloud-hosted phones and devices.”
Microsoft Buying Xamarin to Build Mobile App Dev Powerhouse
Nat Friedman, co-founder and CEO of Xamarin, called the deal a perfect fit.
“This acquisition is a new beginning for Xamarin—the company and its products—and is an opportunity to help many, many more developers build great apps,” Friedman said in a blog post. “Like many of you, I see Microsoft and Xamarin as a perfect fit. Microsoft’s mobile-first, cloud-first strategy is a great match for the Xamarin products and team.”
Gartner analyst Thomas Murphy puts the acquisition into perspective, given IBM’s news this week to tighten its partnership with Apple around the Swift programming language.
“I think this is a great buy, a needed buy and, yes, it was a long time coming, but I think the process of partner, investor, buyer is healthy,” Murphy told eWEEK. “It fits Microsoft’s move to be open platform. It provides a level counter to the extended relation of IBM and Apple and the Swift announcement this week. It is interesting to see IBM/Apple write native applications that utilize hardware, while Microsoft is going open—a flip in the world.”
IDC analyst Al Hilwa agreed. “This is a great exit for Xamarin,” he said. “Speculation of this acquisition has been going on for a couple of years, but now it makes more sense than ever. Microsoft is increasingly pivoting to open source and a multiplatform approach in its mobile strategy, and so this is in line with what they are doing. Xamarin has built a strong business around the Microsoft .NET ecosystem of developers, giving these folks the opportunity to develop iOS and Android apps. Most of these developers are maintaining or also developing apps for Windows given their C# skills, so this is generally a positive move for them to see the technology inside of Microsoft.”
Moreover, Xamarin develops and maintains the Calabash open-source project for mobile acceptance testing. And the company also offers the Xamarin Test Cloud, which automates app testing on more than 2,000 real devices in the cloud. Plus, Xamarin Insights provides analytics for mobile apps so developers can track how their applications are doing.
“You have Google and Amazon with some level of device testing but not real solid services,” Murphy said. “I think this will impact Perfecto Mobile—who used to be partners with HP, IBM and Microsoft and now each has their own thing—as I would expect that Microsoft will begin to include Xamarin device cloud access as part of TFS and MSDN subscriptions. I believe it gives them a very broad platform to build into mobile enablement. There are lots of little elements to this, but overall I find it to be a positive and strong move.”